The Less You Own, The Less That Owns You

The less you own, the less that owns you. Minimalist living has changed my life for the better. If you are interested in having a minimalist house and life, then you must read this!I haven’t always been a minimalist, nor have I always been interested in minimalist living. I used to purchase crazy amounts of clothing, random items for my home, wasn’t interested in becoming a minimalist, and so on.

I hoarded lots of items, hoping that one day I would find a use for them. I often thought that I needed things, so I would purchase crazy amounts of them even though I should have put my money to better use.

Then, around two years ago, I realized that I had too much stuff and that I had an unhealthy relationship with material things.

Over the past two years, I have donated or given away the majority of my belongings. I now pretty much only have the things I need to get me through the day or week ahead. There is no extra, and before I purchase anything, I always think about what use I’ll get out of it.

After all, I travel full-time and there’s only so much I can carry. Plus, getting rid of the majority of my belongings has been hard, stressful, and tiring, and I definitely don’t want to experience that ever again!

I know that not everyone wants to be a minimalist. And, I’m not pushing it on anyone. I know that buying stuff isn’t all bad, and there are many material things that make life easier and better.

Instead, I want to introduce people to the idea of minimalist living, especially since the average person has lots of extra stuff in their lives that they don’t need. This can lead to debt, buying things just to impress others, wasting time, and so on.

Plus, being a minimalist has changed my life for the better, and I believe that it can help others as well.

I used to spend a lot of time thinking the things I bought and spending all of my money on new things, but I am far from that now.

It’s easy to get lost in the idea of spending money on things to fill your life, and the average home size has changed to make it only easier to feel like you have to buy more than you need. Consider this, the average home size in 1950 was less than 1,000 square feet. Fast forward to 2013, the average home size has increased to nearly 2,600 square feet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Clearly, we used to make due with less, and there are still many reasons for minimalist living:

  • Minimalist living can help you save more money. Minimalist living most likely means that you’ll be buying less stuff. Instead, you’ll only buy what you want and what you truly need.
  • Minimalist living means less clutter. Clutter can take over a person’s life. You may feel stressed out, tired, like your things are taking over your life, and more.
  • Minimalist living can give you more time. By living with less stuff, you can spend less time on cleaning, maintenance, and repairs. The more things you have, the more things that you’ll need to clean, maintain, and repair. Just think about what you could do with all of that extra time!

Here is how minimalist living has changed my life:


Clothing doesn’t define me.

By being a minimalist, I’ve definitely realized that I don’t need much in order to be happy. Before, I thought that I needed all the clothing in the world in order to be happy, but now I know that I really don’t need much.

In fact, I hardly ever purchase clothing, and I’ve been wearing nearly the same things for several years.

For me, it’s all about buying things that are more “classic,” won’t go out of style, things that I actually like instead of what’s trendy for that month, and so on.

It feels great when you realize that you don’t need all of that extra stuff in your life.

Instead, purchase what you want and need, rather than thinking about keeping up with others all the time or thinking that emotional spending is something that will help you.


Minimalist living gives me more time.

Minimalist living allows me to have more time to spend on other things.

Just think about it: The more things you have, then the more time you have to spend on using it, maintaining it, repairing it, cleaning it, and so on.

I would much rather live with less than think about all of the things that I own that need work done to them!

Related blog posts about minimalist living:

  • What I Learned By Donating And Giving Away Nearly All Of My Stuff
  • Downsizing Your Home? Here’s How I Went From A 2,000 Square Foot House To An RV
  • Minimalism 101: One Thing a Day
  • Maintaining a Minimalist Wardrobe
  • How I Live in a 400 Sq. Ft. House – My Minimalist Home
  • How I Live On A Sailboat
  • Why Paying For A Storage Unit Is A Waste of Money


With minimalist living, I’ve realized that I don’t need much.

Before I was a minimalist, I kept a lot of things because I thought I needed them for the future. On a regular basis, I probably only used around 25% of the things I had in my house.

In reality, it was probably even less than the 25% figure that I just said above.

I know I’m not alone, and many people keep items because they think they might need them in the future. You know the feeling– you buy something, don’t use it right away, and years later you find it but just can’t throw it away in case there is some circumstance where you need that exact item.

If this is you, then you should put a timeline of no more than one year on the item. If you don’t use it in that timeframe, then there’s a big chance that you’ll never need it or will even miss it that much.

Instead of buying items that you rarely use, you may want to think about renting or borrowing them from someone else.

When I think about how much stuff we gave away, I honestly can’t even remember half of the things. I realize now how little we really needed, and those things definitely did not make me happy if I can’t even remember them!


I save more money by living with less stuff.

Now that we live with less stuff, we are able to save a great deal of money. Instead of thinking that we need everything that exists, we are now much more realistic about our needs and realize that there’s a lot of clutter in the stores that no one really needs at all.

Plus, now that I realize how much money I’ve wasted over the years, I am able to say “no” at the store when debating about whether or not I should purchase a certain item, especially one that might create clutter.

I can also walk into a store and only buy exactly what I need, even if that store is Target!

I have so much more control over my spending and that has saved me a lot of money.


  • 30+ Ways To Save Money Each Month
  • How To Save Money – My Best Money Saving Tips
  • 8 Things To Sell To Make Money
  • Are You Making Your Life Difficult? 18 Ideas To Simplify Your Life
  • How To Reach Your 2018 Goals


I understand now that I don’t need things to make me happy.

Having more things doesn’t make you a happier person. Things don’t make you a better person, they don’t make you more successful than others, or anything else.

In fact, in many circumstances it’s far from that.

I know this because I have less stuff than I have ever had, and I am happier than ever.

Plus, when was the last time you heard someone say “I’m so glad I bought all those pairs of pants 35 years ago!” or “I’m so glad I had all of those things decades ago!”

You should only own something if you truly want or need it. Who cares about what everyone else has!


A minimalist house allows me to travel.

Unless I maintain my minimalist lifestyle and house (well, RV), then I wouldn’t be able to travel full-time. It would be quite hard and not nearly as enjoyable if I had a bunch of things holding me back.

I really, really love and enjoy being able to travel full-time, and it is one of the best benefits of living minimally.

Do you think minimalist living could change your life? Why or why not?


The post The Less You Own, The Less That Owns You appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.


How to book a trip to Thailand with your Amex Platinum Card

Thinking about booking a trip to Thailand as the world opens back up?

There are many different ways to use your credit card rewards and miles to get yourself a free trip to the “Land of Smiles” and also lots of airlines you can use to route yourself to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK).

If you’ve been racking up Membership Rewards points using The Platinum Card® from American Express over the past year – or any other Amex rewards-earning card – now is the time to turn your points into post-pandemic travel.

Since there are a few ways to put these points to work for planning an epic trip, let’s first look at the two methods for planning international travel. Then I’ll share my top option for redeeming my American Express earnings to land myself in the birthplace of pad thai. (Spoiler alert: It’s transferring points for round-trip business class travel on All Nippon Airways [ANA] via Japan.)

See related: How I use my Amex Platinum card

Read more from our credit card experts.

Ask Stephanie a question.

Two ways to redeem Amex points for international travel

There are two distinct ways to use your Membership Rewards points to book an international ticket to Thailand. You can either book directly through the American Express Travel portal, or you can transfer your points to any of the 19 Membership Rewards airline partners and book directly with them.

Which way is better? Both options are fantastic, but you’ll need to factor in where you are going, which airlines will take you there and how much the ticket costs to determine which booking method will give you a better return on the value of your points.

Booking with Amex Travel

When I log in to my American Express account and search the travel page, it’s easy to see that tickets from Los Angeles (LAX) to Thailand (BKK) in late summer 2021 are around $750 round trip in economy class, or 75,000 Membership Rewards points. Not too bad since I got 100,000 points from my Platinum card’s welcome bonus, and the flights are on ANA – a nice Japanese airline.

However, since a trans-Pacific flight to Bangkok is a long plane ride, I prefer to travel premium class whenever possible. If I use Amex Travel to look up the cost of that same round-trip ANA flight from LAX to BKK in business class, it’s $6,377. Paying with Membership Rewards, the equivalent price is 637,655 points. Unfortunately, that’s more points or money than I normally have at any given time to spend on a flight.

See related: Cash back vs. points: Which is better?

Booking through a Membership Rewards travel partner

You can also transfer your Membership Rewards points to one of the program’s travel partners, then use those points to book your trip through that airline’s mileage program.

For the same trip to Thailand from LAX, you could transfer points from Membership Rewards to the ANA mileage program. Once the points arrive in your ANA account (which might take a few days), you can use them to book your tickets. Amex Travel bases the points cost of your flight on the actual ticket price, but ANA charges set rates according to the class of service, fare type, and whether you’re traveling during high, medium or low season.

For example, the same ANA business class fare I would have paid over 600,000 miles for on the travel portal would only cost 100,000 miles during the low season purchased directly through ANA. Guess which ticket I’ll be choosing to fly to Thailand.

See related: Avoid these common travel credit card mistakes

Which option should you choose?

To know which method is best for booking any specific itinerary, you’ll have to check and compare all of your options every time.

The benefit of booking through a mileage program is that sometimes, as in my example, you can squeeze more value out of your points – especially if you purchase more expensive premium tickets. But you’ll have to do the research to know which airline partner programs to check.

On the other hand, if you book through Amex Travel, you may get a better deal on points cost if the fare is already low. And since this type of rewards ticket is considered a “paid” ticket from the airline’s perspective, you’ll still earn miles from the flight in the airline’s loyalty program when you take your trip.

Bottom line

Membership Rewards points earned from the American Express Platinum card are valuable for booking big trips like a post-pandemic visit to Thailand. Because these points provide flexibility when booking tickets, you have many options to get the most redemption value.


Does Travel Insurance Cover Medical Expenses?

If you have a big trip planned in the U.S. or abroad, chances are you’ve considered travel insurance. However, many find the concept a bit confusing. For example, does travel insurance cover medical expenses? If so, how does it work? Is there a difference between the insurance offered with your travel credit card versus a…

9 Habits of Excellent Houseguests

Cleaning up after dinner
SeventyFour /

Bunking with family and friends can be fun — in theory. However, worn mattresses, pet odors and less-than-ideal room temperatures can deflate the highest of spirits. Still, you should show some compassion for your host. Yes, you paid a fortune in cash, time and energy to travel to your loved one’s home. But your host also put in a lot of time, effort and cold hard cash preparing for you.


For Those Who Want Life To Speed Up – Are You Dreaming Too Much About Tomorrow?

Are you dying for time to pass? Many people are. The future is important, but being happy in the present is as well. It's all about a healthy balance.

“First I was dying to finish high school and start college. And then I was dying to finish college and start working. And then I was dying to marry and have children. And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work. And then I was dying to retire. And now I am dying, and suddenly I realize I forgot to live.” – Sustainable Human

I recently saw this quote and it really made me think.

Pretty much everyone, myself included, is guilty of wanting to rush through life instead of trying to live in the present while also preparing for the future.

When I was younger, I wanted to be older so I could have more money, a bigger house, etc. I wanted to rush through high school, college and so on.

I dreamt of the future and spent much of my time dwelling on that.

It’s easy to focus on what you hope your life will be like, but for me, I am living a better life now because I’m no longer trying to rush towards the next stage thinking that it will be better than the present.

When you are only living in the future, you are stealing your present from yourself. It can be hard, but learning to live in the present means you can see how amazing your life already is.

We all look at the years ahead of us, and perhaps it’s things like wanting your life to speed up so that you can graduate from college, regain your freedom once your children are out of the house, and so on.

However, when was the last time you:

  • Spent time thinking or relaxing by yourself, with no distractions?
  • Went on a walk or hike without any electronics?
  • Stopped to enjoy the day – such as the smells, the sun, or the weather?
  • Spent meaningful time with your family, including grandparents and other extended family members?
  • Felt truly happy in a particular moment?

While thinking about the future is important, being able to be happy in the present is truly a gift!

Related reading on how to live in the present:

  • 8 Things To Stop Being Afraid Of So You Can Be Rich, Happy, And Successful
  • 10 Daily Challenges To Improve Your Life
  • Are Your Excuses Making You Broke And Unsuccessful?
  • Be More Confident And Get What You Want In Life
  • Are You Making Your Life Difficult? 18 Ideas To Simplify Your Life
  • How To Reach Your 2018 Goals

Now, trying to live in the present doesn’t mean that you should give up on your future and not save for retirement, or something else along those lines. However, it does mean that you should have a healthy balance – living now and planning for your future.

If you ask anyone older than you about what they regret the most, it’s probably not enjoying life as much as they could.

Instead of rushing through your life to the next phase, you should think about what you can do today to enjoy your life now. And no, you don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy life – you can do so on a budget.

Life goes by quickly, so finding happiness now is important.

After all, you only have this one chance.


Here are my tips on how to better live in the present and enjoy life:

  1. Think positively. Being positive can help you in many ways. Negative thoughts are something that plague many of us each and every day; however, they can wreck any happiness that you may be feeling. When learning to live in the present, negativity will definitely hold you back.
  2. Get rid of the “extra” in your life. The average person has a lot of extra stuff. In fact, the average house has over 300,000 items in it. That is a lot of stuff that could be messing with your mind and making you unhappy. If you are feeling bogged down by the clutter, try donating or selling some items from your home.
  3. Smile more. Just a simple smile can completely change your day. Thinking about happy things can easily change your outlook on life.
  4. Stop comparing yourself to others. You may find that you are comparing yourself to others and coming up with reasons for why something is impossible for you. By comparing yourself to others and minimizing their accomplishments, you are just holding yourself back. Sure, you may not be able to reach a goal as quickly as someone else, or it may require that you work even harder. But, that doesn’t mean that everything is impossible for you. Everyone is on a different path, and there are people who are better off than you and people who are worse off. Instead of comparing your path to those around you, you should focus on what you can do to make your dream a reality.
  5. Keep a journal. While I don’t currently have a journal, I do have this blog, which acts as a journal in a way. I am about to begin journaling in the form of paper and pen because keeping a journal can help you reflect on your past while making it easy to see how you are progressing towards your goals. Plus, spilling your heart out every so often is great for the mind and for the soul.
  6. Sit silently. When was the last time you just sat down in complete silence with no distractions? For the average person, this is probably a rare occurrence. Sitting silently can help you reflect on your life and what’s going on in the world around you. It can also help you relax, destress, and clear your mind.
  7. Appreciate the small things in life. When we take the time to see them, we all have small accomplishments and moments of bliss that happen every single day. Take the time to appreciate these small things. Whether it be enjoying the sunshine, enjoying the food you are eating, and so on, these small things can add up to a great deal of happiness.
  8. You can still dream. Remember, you can still dream. Today’s article is not saying that dreaming about the future is bad. Dreaming and setting goals for yourself is extremely important. The key here, though, is to have a healthy balance. Plan for the future, but enjoy the present as well.

Are you guilty of wanting to rush life? Are you currently happy and finding ways to live in the present? Why or why not?

The post For Those Who Want Life To Speed Up – Are You Dreaming Too Much About Tomorrow? appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.


The hidden costs of free hotel award nights

There are lots of great co-branded hotel credit cards available these days to help you earn points to redeem for free hotel nights.

But when you use your credit card rewards points to pay for a hotel room, can you expect the full cost of your room to be covered?

Even though free nights should be free in theory, sometimes you might be surprised to find yourself with an unexpected bill at checkout. Beware of these potential hidden costs of free hotel nights.

Resort fees

The largest and most common hidden costs of free hotel reward nights are the resort fees that many properties are now tacking onto your bill to cover the amenities they offer (whether you use them or not).

Both the Hyatt and Hilton hotel property groups waive the resort fee on a stay when you book with your points, but if you’re staying a free night at a Marriott or IHG property, you’ll still be charged a resort fee for each day you stay.

Read more from our credit card experts.

Ask Stephanie a question.

Not-so-free breakfast

I love when free hotel nights come with the benefit of free breakfast in the morning, but almost all hotels have some limits on what you can order. Alcohol is almost never included (except for one time I had free-flowing champagne breakfast at a Hilton in the Seychelles), and it is common that you’ll be charged at checkout for certain menu items like juices or espresso drinks.

Likewise, some hotels impose dollar limits on how much you can order for free. Usually, this limit is enough to get you a full breakfast, including one entree and a morning coffee, but not always. I just stayed at a Sheraton that gave each guest a $16 certificate for “free breakfast” despite the fact that most of the items on the menu were $17 or more – not including coffee or tip.

If you don’t want to get hit with this hidden cost, be sure you know at the outset what the breakfast benefit is and what exactly it includes.

See related: Setting expectations for a post-pandemic return to travel

Different rules and taxes on cash and points awards

Most hotel property groups give you the option to make a booking fully with points or use some points and pay the rest of the rate with cash. When you choose a cash and points rate, the rules for what you get for “free” often change.

The waiving of resort fees at the Hyatt, for example, does not apply on a cash and points stay the way it applies on a full award stay. Likewise, if you cover part of your stay with cash, you can also expect to be hit with taxes on your final bill.

Parking charges

If you’re going to need to park a car on your free night, you’ll want to know how the specific hotel you’re staying at manages its self-parking and valet services. For lower category hotels, self-parking in the hotel lot is often included. You shouldn’t be surprised to get charged $30-$50 per day for parking for some higher category and pricier hotels.

You might also find that parking is covered as an amenity in your resort fee in some resort destinations. You can win with a two-for-one here by selecting to use your points at a property that includes parking in the resort fee and doesn’t charge you the fee if you’re paying for the stay with points.

This past week I stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai, where my resort fee was covered as part of my award stay with parking as one of the benefits – win-win and no surprise charges.

Late checkout

Want to stay for late checkout beyond the time allotted to you based on your elite status? Some hotels, particularly those in resort destinations, may add extra costs to your bill for the benefit of keeping your room a few extra hours.

The Hilton Hawaiian Village, for example, only grants late checkout to Hilton Gold and Diamond members until 1 p.m., then adds a $175 charge if you want to keep your room past that time.

See related: Hotel loyalty programs extending perks for members through coronavirus

Free nights that aren’t coded as free

If you’re using reward points from a flexible card program to book a points stay through a bank’s travel rewards portal, you often won’t be eligible for the same benefits that you would earn if you were booking directly through the hotel property group. Waived resort fees on free stays often fall into that category.

When you book a hotel with a resort fee via the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, the resort fee is added to the hotel booking price before you pay.

Bottom line

Free hotel nights are one of the greatest rewards you can earn from your hotel and flexible credit card points, but make sure you do your homework first and book wisely, so free is what you actually get.


Credit score needed for the Discover it Miles card

The Discover it® Miles card is a popular travel credit card from Discover. It offers 1.5X miles on every purchase, which you can redeem for cash or travel purchases. It also offers other perks, including no annual fee, flexible reward redemption and a match for all your miles at the end of the first year.

Are you considering adding this travel credit card to your wallet? If so, you’ll have to meet Discover’s credit score requirements. Keep reading to learn what credit score you need for the Discover it Miles card, what to do if your application is denied and how you can boost your score to qualify for this card.

What credit score is needed for the Discover it Miles card?

To qualify for the Discover it Miles card, you’ll need either a good or excellent FICO credit score. A good credit score is one anywhere from 670 to 739, while an excellent credit score is one that’s 740 or higher.

Keep in mind that while your credit score is one of the most important factors Discover will consider when deciding if you qualify for this card, it’s not the only factor. The company will also look at your credit report for a history of late payments or other disqualifying factors. Your income, credit utilization and other factors will also determine if you qualify.

What if my application is denied?

If Discover denies your application for the Discover it Miles card, you may not be entirely out of luck yet. First, like most credit card companies, Discover has a reconsideration line you can call to ask them to take another look at your application. The number for Discover’s reconsideration line is 1-800-347-2683.

Asking Discover to reconsider your credit card application doesn’t mean the answer will change. However, even if Discover doesn’t agree to approve your application, calling the reconsideration line can give you some helpful information as to why you were denied. You can use that information to improve your financial situation so you’ll be approved the next time around.

A few things to check for are whether you made any mistakes on the application, whether there are items on your credit report you need to fix and whether your credit score is actually in the good or excellent range.

How can I improve my credit score to get this card?

If your application for the Discover it Miles card was denied based on your credit score, you have a few options to help increase your credit score.

Improve your payment history

Your payment history is the single most important factor in determining your credit score, accounting for 35% of the calculation. Therefore, one of the best ways to increase your credit score is to improve your payment history.

First, be sure you’re making every monthly payment on time. Even one late payment on your credit report can have a huge impact on your credit score and prevent you from getting a new credit card. Additionally, catch up on any past-due accounts. Those late payments will remain on your credit report for seven years, but getting caught up on the bills can help minimize the damage.

Dispute credit report errors

A 2021 survey from Consumer Reports found that about 12% of respondents had an error on their credit report the last time they checked it. Errors can have a serious impact on your credit report and can pull your score down, so it’s important to find them as soon as possible

If you do find errors, you can dispute the errors directly with the credit bureaus. Unless the credit bureau can provide proof that an item is legitimate, it’ll be removed from your credit report.

Decrease your credit utilization

Your credit utilization is the percentage of your available credit that you’re using, and it’s an important factor for your credit score. In general, it’s recommended that you use no more than 30% of your available credit.

There are two ways to decrease your credit utilization: decreasing your debt and increasing your available credit. If you currently use credit cards, you can boost your credit score by paying off any remaining debt on them and using no more than 30% of your available credit each month – and less is even better. You can also contact your credit card company and ask for a credit limit increase. Some companies allow you to request this directly from your online account, while others have a customer service number you can call.

Expand your credit history

Having too short a credit history can hold you back when it comes to boosting your credit score and qualifying for new credit. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to grow your credit history without access to new credit, and it can feel like an endless cycle. Luckily, there are a couple ways to expand your credit history without access to new credit.

First, you can become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card. Doing so can increase your available credit and, therefore, decrease your credit utilization. Plus, depending on how old the credit card is, it may increase your average age of credit, another factor that affects your credit score. Finally, you’ll get credit for all the on-time payments the cardholder has made on that card over the years.

Before you decide to become an authorized user on someone else’s card, be sure they’ve used the card responsibly. The last thing you want is a card with a poor payment history or high utilization showing up on your credit report.

Another way you can expand your credit report is through a service like Experian Boost, which allows you to add your monthly bills to your credit report. You’ll get credit for your monthly phone bill, streaming services, utilities and more. It’s also entirely free to use.

As a final option, you can apply for a secured card, which you can get without a good credit score or long credit history.

Bottom line

The Discover it Miles card is one of many popular travel credit cards on the market. It stands out with its 1.5X miles on all purchases, the bonus miles after your first year and the fact that it doesn’t have an annual fee. But you won’t be approved for the card unless you meet the card’s requirements for your credit score and other eligibility factors.

If you don’t think you’ll qualify yet, you can use the tips in this article to work on boosting your credit score to help ensure your application is approved when you’re ready.


How do travel rewards credit cards work?

For many rewards credit card users, the opportunity to earn a free vacation is much more attractive than earning cash back or merchandise. Using travel rewards credit cards allows you to dream of spending relaxing days in beautiful places, rather than merely reducing the amount on your credit card statement balances by a percent or two. 

What is a travel rewards credit card?

A travel rewards credit card is one that allows you to earn points or miles that can be redeemed for travel reservations. In addition to offering rewards, these credit cards are also more likely to offer other features and benefits that are valuable to frequent travelers. 

Credit cards that offer travel rewards were some of the first rewards travel cards, and they have become very popular in recent years – there are now several different types of them. One of the most familiar kinds of travel reward cards are those co-branded by airlines, often called frequent flyer cards. These cards earn miles with a single airline’s loyalty program. Likewise, there are many hotel rewards cards that are co-branded with major hospitality chains. 

Most credit card issuers also offer general purpose travel reward cards that earn points or miles in their own loyalty programs. Some of these card issuer created programs can allow you to redeem your rewards directly for travel reservations through their in-house travel agencies.

Other travel rewards programs let you redeem their points and miles for statement credits towards travel you book yourself. And several popular programs let you transfer your rewards to airline miles or hotel points, in addition to letting you book travel directly or offering statement credits towards travel reservations. There are also travel rewards credit cards designed for the needs of small business owners. 

Types of travel credit cards


Airline credit cards are co-branded with an airline and offer both travel rewards and benefits when flying with that carrier. Standard rewards earned on airline cards is 2 miles (or rewards points) per dollar spent with the airline, and sometimes more in select bonus categories, and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere. Airline cards also offer perks such as priority boarding, discounts on in-flight food and beverages and a free checked bag.


Hotel credit cards are similarly co-branded, with a hotel chain in this case, and designed to reward purchases with that chain. Some offer enticing perks and bonuses, letting you earn points toward free night stays and benefits like room upgrades and late checkouts. Hotel credit cards differ from airline cards in that there’s no standard reward structure, so they’re a little harder to compare than airline cards.

General travel cards

Travel rewards credit cards not co-branded with a travel provider offer points or miles in a program created by the card issuer. Credit card users who earn these rewards redeem them directly with the card issuer for travel reservations – such as American Express Membership Rewards and Citi’s ThankYou points program – or transfer them to partner airlines and hotels. Flexibility is the key advantage of general travel rewards.

Premium travel cards

Luxury travel cards typically come with a high annual fee. But if you’re a frequent flyer who enjoys luxury perks, you can probably justify an annual fee of $200 or more. Most elite cards are loaded with valuable perks – airport lounge access, travel credits, luxury travel insurance, elite status benefits and luxury hotel perks – that can more than make up for those hefty annual fees, if used regularly.

How do you earn rewards with a travel credit card?

There are several ways you can earn points and miles with a travel rewards credit card.

Sign-up bonuses

First, most travel rewards credit cards offer new applicants the chance to earn a sign-up bonus. However, card issuers prefer to call these offers “new account bonuses” or “welcome offers.”

By any name, these offers allow new applicants to earn large amounts of valuable points or miles, usually after completing a minimum spending requirement. For example, a travel rewards credit card that’s co-branded with an airline might offer new applicants 50,000 miles after they use their card to make $4,000 of purchases within three months of account opening.

Points and miles

Beyond the new account bonuses, travel rewards cards offer points or miles for spending. Typically, a travel rewards credit card will offer a single point or mile per dollar spent on most purchases. But these cards will almost always offer additional bonus points for other purchases as well.

For example, airline and hotel cards will offer additional rewards for purchases from their brands, and many cards feature bonuses for common purchases such as dining, groceries and gas.

Ongoing bonuses and promotional offers

Many travel rewards credit cards will also feature bonuses and promotional offers for certain activities such as reaching an annual spending threshold, adding an additional cardholder or just renewing your card for another year.

Other benefits of travel credit cards

Beyond offering points and miles towards award travel, travel rewards credit cards can offer valuable cardholder benefits:

  • Flight perks: Airline credit cards often come with perks such as priority boarding, discounts on inflight purchases and one or more free checked bags. Premium rewards cards with large annual fees may offer a membership in airport business lounges programs.
  • Elite status: Hotel and airline reward cards can often get you elite status, entitling you to receive room upgrades, late checkouts and even free breakfasts.
  • Travel insurance: Many travel rewards cards can offer travel insurance policies that cover rental cars theft and damage, trip delay/cancellation and lost luggage. 
  • Special deals: Many travel rewards credit cards also feature special deals. For example, an airline or hotel card can give you additional access to award flights and free night stays, beyond what’s offered to non-cardholders. 

How to redeem travel points

Many general travel credit cards have their own, proprietary loyalty programs that issue reward points. When you’re ready to redeem your rewards with these programs, you have a range of options including cash back, gift cards, merchandise, travel reservations and charitable donations. Here are our guides for some of the most popular travel rewards programs:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Travel
  • Citi ThankYou rewards
  • Capital One Travel
  • Bank of America Travel Center

To redeem airline miles, log into your frequent flyer miles account with the airline your card is associated with. The major carriers – American, Delta and United – often use pricing systems that correspond with the cash price of new reservations, making it harder to get good deals on domestic award flights. But they also allow you to redeem your miles on flights operated by foreign carriers, which can offer major value if you’re traveling internationally.

Other carriers, such as JetBlue and Southwest, have frequent flyer programs with more or less fixed values to their rewards. So you can redeem your rewards for any unsold seat, and the number of points required directly correlates with the price of the ticket. Most airline programs also offer options to redeem miles for other rewards, such as merchandise, gift cards, hotel reservations and rental cars – but non-travel options rarely offer as much value as award flights.

When it comes to redeeming hotel rewards, you’ll often receive the most value when using your points during peak travel season, when rooms are most expensive. But you may need to book award stays in advance to find available rooms.

What to watch out for

It’s also important to understand that award travel isn’t usually free.

Annual fees

First, the most compelling travel rewards cards have an annual fee, although some will waive that fee the first year. And if you choose to carry a balance on your credit card, the cost of the interest charges may exceed the value of the travel rewards you earn.

Since non-reward cards will offer lower interest rates than similar cards that offer travel rewards, it’s best to steer clear of travel rewards cards unless you avoid interest charges by paying your statement balance in full. Most travel rewards cards have eliminated foreign transaction fees, so that’s not the issue it once was.

Taxes and surcharges

When it comes time to redeem your rewards, there could also be taxes and fees that you must pay. For example, airlines impose taxes, fees and “carrier imposed surcharges” on many award tickets – including passenger fees mandated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). For domestic flights, it’s unlikely you’ll pay more than the $5.60 TSA surcharge, each way.

But for international flights, you could end up paying hundreds of dollars in government taxes and fees. In extreme cases, you may be asked to pay more than $1,000 in surcharges imposed by the airlines when you redeem your miles for an award ticket. 

How to avoid unnecessary fees

When you’re able to redeem your points or miles directly for travel reservations or statement credits, you can avoid any cash payments. Also, you can typically avoid surcharges when you redeem hotel points, as taxes on lodging are typically tied to the dollar amount paid – meaning there are no taxes or fees on award stays. However, some hotels will impose so-called resort fees on award stays, while others waive those fees when paying with points. 

There can also be fees on transferring points or miles from one person to another. But even when programs charge those fees, they can easily be avoided by simply booking travel reservations from one account in the name of another traveler.

Other fees to look out for include airline change and cancellation fees. Thankfully, most U.S. airlines reduced or eliminated these fees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. When you cancel a hotel reservation within the cancellation period, often 48 hours before arrival, there’s typically no cancellation or change fee. 

Bottom line

Travel rewards credit cards offer a way for you to earn exciting award reservations in return for opening a new account, using your card for spending and other activities. At the same time, these cards can provide you valuable perks and benefits, just for being a cardholder.

By understanding all the advantages, as well as the potential costs, you can decide if it makes sense for you to apply for a travel rewards credit card and which one is right for you.